Home Search Index of men A-Z

The E.J. Boys Archive

Amended 14.5.2011. Minor edits 17.2.14, 28.12.14. Some new info 23.3.2016.

1433, Private William COLSON — 13th Light Dragoons

Birth & early life

Born in St. Marylebone, London.


Enlisted at Westminster on the 25th of February 1851.

Age: 20.

Height: 5' 8".

Trade: Plumber.

Features: Fresh complexion. Brown eyes. Brown hair.


From Private to Corporal: 30th of December 1854.

Corporal to Sergeant: 22nd of September 1855.

Served at Eupatoria.

Re-engaged for a further 12-year period of service on the 22nd of August 1862.

Appointed to Troop Sgt Major on the 11th of October 1865.

Promoted to Regtl Sgt Major on the 12th of August 1867.

Reverted to Troop Sgt Major, "at his own request", on the 18th of June 1868.

Reverted to Sergeant, "at his own request", on the 23rd of April 1872.

Transferred to the Nottinghamshire Yeomanry on the 8th of March 1873.

Discharge & pension

Discharged from Aldershot on the 20th of June 1873, at "Own request, free to pension after 21 years service."

Served 22 years 125 days. In Turkey and the Crimea, 2 years. Canada, 2 years 11 months.

Conduct, "very good". If not promoted would have been in the possession of five Good Conduct badges.

Aged 44 years 4 months on discharge.

To live at Bramcote, near Nottingham.

Next of kin: Wife, Sarah Ann Colson, who is shown on the Regimental "Married roll" from the 3rd of March 1857.

Once entered in the Regimental Defaulter's book. Never tried by Court-martial.

Awarded a pension of 2/- per day.


Entitled to the Crimean medal with clasps for Alma, Balaclava, Inkerman and Sebastopol and the Turkish medal.

Documents confirm the award of the Crimean medal with four clasps, Turkish War medal and the Long Service & Good Conduct medal.

Awarded the Long Service & Good Conduct medal on the 22nd of January 1870, with a Private's gratuity of £5. (claimed £10.)

EJB: Colson's Long Service & Good Conduct medal is of some interest. It shows him with the rank of Squadron Quartermaster Sergeant. This came about in the General Order of the 13th of April 1869, when the regiment was re-organised into the short-lived squadron system. After a few years, the troop system was reverted to, but was changed again to the squadron system in March 1892 — this being the first one so noted.


Attended the first Balaclava Banquet in 1875.

Named as W.D.Colson on the October 1890 Balaclava Dinner list.

Member of the Balaclava Commemoration Society in 1879.

A supplementary roll (undated) signed by Major Henry Holden shows him as being issued with the Crimean medal (with clasps for Alma, Balaclava and Inkerman) on the 7th of October 1855.

Life after service

1881 Census

219 Hackney Road, Parish of St. Leonard's, Shoreditch.

According to the 1881 Census Returns William Colson was aged 50 years, a Clerk in a Builder's Office, born in Charterhouse Square, EC1, living with his wife, Sarah Ann Colson, 40, born in Liverpool. No children are shown.

He appeared with other Crimean War veterans as a "Battle of Balaklava Hero" in the Lord Mayor's Show, 1890. A specially printed programme for this event lists all these men and Colson is shown travelling in the 17th carriage in the procession. [RM]

Death registered

The death of Sarah Ann Colson, aged 50, was registered in Shoreditch in the December Quarter of 1890. [CP]

Death & burial

Died in London on the 20th of November 1895.

Death registered

William Drake Colson, aged 65 years, December Quarter 1895, St Olave. [CP]

The records of Guy's Hospital show that he was admitted on the 8th of October 1895, and was in Bed No. 4 of the St. Stephen's Ward under Dr. Perry. He died at 5 p.m. on the 20th of November from "Diabetes and Pneumonia". His death was certified by Mr. Targett. No inquest was held and he was "Buried by friends" (i.e. his family).

From an unknown, undated, newspaper report:

"A Balaclava survivor, William Colson by name, now in the St. Stephen's Ward of Guy's Hospital, describes the battle...

'It was a big crash — that was all, although we found afterwards that it had lasted almost half-an-hour. It was a case of cut and thrust the whole time. My horse was shot almost at the onset of the battle and I fell in a heap with about twenty or thirty other riders. I picked myself up and found another horse, mounted, and rode out of the engagement without receiving a scratch'

...He thinks that Rorke's Drift (Zulu War of 1879) was the best thing that Britons have ever done in the way of fighting."

Extract from The Broad Arrow for the 30th of November 1895:

"11th Hussars — William Drake Colson, late of this regiment, who died in Guy's Hospital, London, on the 20th inst. aged 65, was one of the survivors of the Balaclava Charge. The deceased served in the Army for 24 years, and was in possession of the Crimean medal with four clasps, the Turkish medal and the medal for long service."

From the Historical Records of the South Notts. Yeomanry, in which he was a Permanent Staff Instructor:

"In 1875 a detachment of the South Notts Yeomanry competed for the Lloyd-Lindsay prize. He was a Quartermaster Sgt. at the time and one of the competitors. The Regiment was placed third, with a total of £20 in prize money."

The following appeared in The Times, 24th of July 1875:

"The smartest of all to the eye, both in neatness of uniform, which was simply that of a cavalry soldier in 'undress', and the quality of both man and horse, was perhaps that of the South Notts., who took third prize."

References & acknowledgements

Death registration and information about the 1890 Balaclava Dinner list kindly provided by Chris Poole.

New on the site Search Index of men C
For further information, or to express an interest in the project, please email the editors, Philip Boys & Roy Mills, via info@chargeofthelightbrigade.com